Sunday, August 22, 2010

Making Customer Service a Priority

“Look through your customer's eyes. Are you the solution provider or part of the problem?” ~Marlene Blaszcyk

One of my favorite topics to speak on and write about is customer service. I am so fond of this subject because I can see the issues from the perspectives of both the business and the customer.

Advertising is set up to bring in new customers. But once advertising has done its job, the focus should shift to keeping those new customers. When it comes to retention, customer service is the key.

Businesses spend large sums of money on bringing new customers in – just look at the size of many marketing departments. Though best practices suggest that 90 percent of sales should be from existing customers, many businesses spend very little on customer service.

Many business owners lose their customer service focus, and this apathy tends to trickle down to the staff. In order to ensure each and every customer feels good about their experience with your company, business owners must make customer service a priority.

Recently, I went to a doctor’s office as a new patient. I had scheduled the appointment for 10:30 a.m., but when the office called the day before to confirm, they had the time down as 12:30 p.m. When I nicely reminded them that the time was 10:30, not 12:30, they replied, “Whoops. Can you change your schedule to come in at 12:30?” When I said that I could not, they said they would work me in at 10:30. This conversation should have been a warning to me of the service I would receive the next day.

As I was getting out of my car at 10:15 to go into the doctor’s office, I immediately noticed that the paint was starting to peel off the building. As I approached the front door, I noticed that it was covered with nicks and cracks and looked like it had been through a war.

As I walked into the waiting room, I felt as though I had traveled back to the 1950s. Everything looked like it had never been updated or repaired.

The offenses continued as I approached the counter to sign in. The person who greeted me was wearing the biggest frown I had ever seen. As if that was not enough, she also threw me a look that said, “What the heck do you want?” Next, when I told her I was a new patient, she practically threw me the clipboard with the paperwork to fill out.

When I returned with the completed paperwork, she was talking with a colleague, and she completely ignored me for three minutes even though she could see I was waiting. Somehow, I managed to remain relatively calm.

At 11:30, they called me back to see the doctor, and at noon, the doctor finally came in. He never acknowledged that he was late or that I might have been inconvenienced by his tardiness.

While the doctor was very good at treating my medical issue, the bad taste left by the extremely poor customer service trumped that fact altogether. I will not be returning to this doctor’s office.

Every business can expect to have some sort of customer service issue, but in this case, the problems were systemic.

So why was the customer service in this office so badly managed? I believe the answer lies with the doctors who own the practice. They only see their job as providing medical treatment to their patients. Everything else is unimportant.

Whether dealing with medical practices or businesses, our focus must be constantly tuned in to customer service. To ensure that every customer has the best possible experience with your business, providing great service has to become a ritual or a habit.

Now go out and make sure that you make customer service a high priority for your business.

You can do this!

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